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Mumbai, 14th March, 2017: Today, I received an email that was sent on behalf of Ekta World Pvt Ltd that worried me for a few minutes -- yeah, but only for a few minutes before I clearly saw that this crooked builder was bluffing and intimidating once again.

(Background: Ekta World has a troubled relationship with truthfulness and factuality. A couple of days back, the builder tried to scare freelance journalist Raju Vernekar that a matter was "subjudice" and that he would file a defamation suit against him also. That tactic backfired; instead of preventing Vernekar from publishing his story, it actually triggered him to publish this story in Afternoon Despatch & Courier! More about this incident in my blog here.)

Today, while at work, I received the following email: 

"From: Avinash Vidwans <avinashvidwans@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, Mar 14, 2017 at 4:36 PM
Subject: Hearing of Application for interim and ad-interim relief in Special Civil Suit No. 36 of 2017 in the Court of C.J.(S.D.) at Vasai.
To: vernekar.raj@gmail.com, member@linkedin.com, krish.kkphoto@gmail.com, vineetmalik1@yahoo.co.in
Cc: deepti.n@ektaworld.com

Respected Sir / Madam,
Please find herewith attached copy of an Application for interim and ad-interim injunction to be moved against you Mr. Vineet Malik and Krishna Raj Rao in the Court of C.J.(S.D.) at Vasai on 15th day of March, 2017 at 11.00 am or so soon thereafter, on behalf of my client M/S Ekta Parksville Homes Pvt.Ltd.
Please take notice that, you may remain present if you so desire at the above mentioned time and date and venue.
Thanking you,
Yours faithfully
Avinash Vidwans, Advocate."

Attached to this email was this word file. The fun contents of this file are dissected and analyzed in my blog here. (For the sake of continuity, I am forced to separate these, but please don't miss reading it, because the bluffs contained in that document are really hilarious!)

Anyway, after my first reaction subsided, I wrote this email in reply:

From: Krishnaraj Rao <krish.kkphoto@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, Mar 14, 2017 at 6:41 PM
Subject: Re: Hearing of Application for interim and ad-interim relief in Special Civil Suit No. 36 of 2017 in the Court of C.J.(S.D.) at Vasai.
To: Avinash Vidwans <avinashvidwans@gmail.com>
Cc: Raju Vernekar <vernekar.raj@gmail.com>, member@linkedin.com, Vineet Malik <vineetmalik1@yahoo.co.in>, Deepti Nair <deepti.n@ektaworld.com>, Gopal Mehta <advocategcm@gmail.com>, "Adv. Abdul Rasheed Qureshi" <i.rasheed1357@gmail.com>, Ashok Mohnani <ashok.m@ektaworld.com>

Dear Mr Avinash Vidwans,

1) I have been given no reason to believe that you are an advocate, or that you have been duly appointed by Ekta Builders to represent them. You have not even sent a copy of your vakalatnama signed by Mr Ashok Mohnani. Kindly furnish adequate proofs immediately.

2) Further, I have been given no reason to believe that the word file that you have sent to me is the authentic and true copy of the "Special Civil Suit" that you claim is being filed at Vasai Court. Hence, it cannot be considered to be Notice served to me. Kindly serve notice immediately in a way that will be legally acceptable and verifiable, i.e. hard copy or scanned copy of stamped and registered "Special Civil Suit".

3) Please note further that you have deliberately and malafidely served this notice without giving adequate notice of 48 hours to enable us to respond. You have sent me this unsigned word file with barely 16 hours of notice, the previous evening. Hence, your foregoing email cannot be considered to be proper service of notice under any circumstances.

4) Please note further that Vasai Court is in no way the proper jurisdiction for filing of your case. Just because you have a project at Virar does not mean that you can file at Vasai. You also have a project at Nashik; that does not give the Nashik court proper jurisdiction over your case. As your client's registered office is at Bandra, the court with proper jurisdiction will also within Mumbai jurisdiction. Hence, for want of proper jurisdiction, your court injunction, if filed, will be without proper jurisdiction, and will give me cause to seek proper reliefs against you for abuse of the judicial process.

5) Moreover, as there is currently no court injunction of any nature against my writings, please note that I will be publishing two stories about your double-dealings and fraudulent dealings with your customers before 3 am tomorrow morning. Since they are based solidly on documentary proofs that are in public domain, and are in public interest, there is no need for me to seek rebuttal from your client.

I wish your clients good luck in their attempts to restrain us from exposing their cheating and fraud. And when the proper occasion arises, I look forward to seeing your clients in court. Please be forewarned, I will spare no efforts to expose your clients' fraudulent dealings, and I shall widely report the outcome of each and every court proceeding in future. That is not a threat, but a solemn promise.

For the record: I am acting on my own behalf as a freelance journalist. Mr Vineet Malik and other clients of Ekta World are my sources of information. I have not received a paisa of remuneration from these persons, nor do I intend to at any time in the future.

Please feel free to produce this email as proof before any forum, judicial or otherwise.

Best Wishes,
Krishnaraj Rao

-------------------

After writing this email, I decided to put into public domain all that I had to say about the dealings of Ekta World before the next morning (Wednesday, 15th March), by when the Civil Judge may be induced to give an arbitrary order muzzling me.

But then, my activist colleague Sulaiman Bhimani checked the causelist and found that there is no hearing scheduled tomorrow (i.e. 15th March, 2017). As per the below causelist, the next hearing date is 18th April 2017, and the case status is "Awaiting Summons". We are not needed to attend the hearingtomorrow, because there is no hearing!

So, Ekta World is bluffing as usual. The date given in the lawyer's email is a lie. The question is: Why this lie? Are they thinking that we will panic, scramble to engage a lawyer, work overnight to draft a reply, and turn up at Vasai court at 11 am tomorrow, only to find with disappointment that there is no hearing? Or is Ekta World's top honcho Ashok Mohnani hatching plans to have us assaulted or killed on the way to the court? Or, has he laid a trap to fix us by framing us in a false case of some sort? Vasai is a notorious area, being the home-turf of well-known criminal gangs.

As always, watch this space for further developments. Dekhte rahiye iss dharavahik ki UGLY kadee!

ISSUED IN PUBLIC INTEREST BY
Krishnaraj Rao
9821588114
krish.kkphoto@gmail.com

PS: And in case you are wondering what I wrote about Ekta World that has them running to Civil Court, read these blog posts:

 POSTED IN PUBLIC INTEREST BY
Sulaiman Bhimani
9323642081

Not sure how to do this, given that this is a data free hatchet job by Manu Joseph. So it isn't like he is claiming that his absurd claims are backed by data to begin with. Still, because I'm irritated enough, doing a limited take down of yet another attempt to trivialize the gravity and causes of farmer suicides with the Parliament in session (during or just before Parliament sessions is the season for hatchet jobs on farmers - probably to improve acceptance for anti-farmer policies coming up?).

All quotes from Manu Joseph's fantasy piece on farmer suicides in the Hindustan Times.

If an active cricket ground exists, it would be watered on most days, or it would die. So why this fuss before the tournament? Also, the calls for the cancellation of matches are comical for a simple reason — it is on the days of the matches that the grounds are not heavily watered.

Frankly, I agree with Manu Joseph that there are bigger problems than cricket in the face of drought. For example, the state allocation of water prioritizing industry over domestic consumption in blatant disregard for law or rights and a court limits (not cuts off, mind you) water to breweries long after people have spent months making careers out of seeking water to survive. However, the idea that a cricket ground consumes less water when there is a match is ignorance of the highest order, because he seems to think that facilities for a crowd of spectators and worse, media and teams camping out (who in our VIP culture won't be assigned a couple of buckets a day) don't consume water and all the water in a cricketing event is actually only the water poured on a lawn.

At this point, Manu Joseph dismisses the first veteran of his piece. Sunil Gavaskar.

Sunil Gavaskar, whose relationship with the BCCI, it is reported, has collapsed and whose lucrative contract with the board may end, wrote in his column, “The issue of drought is one such where many lives are at stake.” (True). “I am no expert on ground and pitch preparation…” (True) “…

What Manu Joseph does not realize is that Manu Joseph is no expert on ground and pitch preparation either and does not bother with any disclaimers about his lack of knowledge. Probably because it would involve not writing this absurd piece to begin with. Gavaskar may not be an expert on ground and pitch preparation, but Gavaskar knows cricketing events and probably realizes they are not as water free as Manu Joseph's piece is fact free.

This is a mystifying exaggeration — the suggestion that if matches are held in three cricket grounds in Maharahstra the lives of farmers would be at risk. But it is a popular view.

Absolutely no explanation for why Manu Joseph calls this an exaggeration. No mention of available water that people are ignoring and dying as a hobby. No mention of how much difference in water consumption there would actually be and what constitutes exaggerated. Absolutely no evidence anywhere that Manu Joseph has been to drought hit areas, studied so much as what drought means to reach his expert opinion. Manu Joseph has water in his tap and people are making too much of a fuss. And we actually have newspapers giving space to this entitled garbage. An interesting question of how editorial decisions happen in corporate media. Forget the stand taken by an article, but do newspapers no longer require claims to be backed by evidence?

It is not a popular view, BTW. Most people hate it. 60 kilometers from the heart of Bombay, I get half an hour of water - non-potable - a day. I earn enough to make ends meet and have the luxury  of home delivery for drinking water. Men, women, kids from our oh-so-posh looking society are routinely found at a water filtration gig round the corner, filling 10 liter cans for 3 rupees and ferrying the water home. I am nowhere near the officially drought hit regions of Maharashtra, where taps have run dry right after the monsoon and people have been ferrying water for MONTHS already. Perhaps Manu Joseph would like to ferry water for a week in an air conditioned car before calling these concerns exaggerated or merely popular opinion (as opposed to his fact free expert opinion, I suppose).

Perhaps the fact that many of the deaths from drought are from drowning may prove Manu Joseph's point that there is plenty of water and people are making a fuss? There are kids drowning in the silt in water reservoirs. Falling into wells. Kids who aren't in school to begin with, because they are needed to find and bring water home, right along with the adults. How many of these kids will need to search harder, walk farther? How many adults will die of heat stroke and heart attacks as the search for water makes them wander more in temperatures regularly over 40 degrees? There is already risk of water riots as desperation grows. How many of the quests for water will be made longer with tankers supplying water to desperate localities moved to lucrative providing for cricketing events? [link added because hours after I write this, an expose shows how water for the distressed gets sold to whoever can pay for it]

There is much veneration of farmers in India by those who are not farmers. These are the very people whose greatest fortune was that their grandfathers or fathers ejected their progeny from the agrarian economy.

There is also much dismissal of the plight of farmers in India by those who are not farmers. These are the very people whose greatest fortune is to be so comfortable in life as to see no difference in resources spent on entertainment and food. A lot of these overnight experts are those who find their agricultural know-how based on specific facts and arguments cherry picked and promoted by industries who would prefer to marginalize farmers. Who lack any basic knowledge on the subject to know when they are being fed handpicked bullshit or how they can verify it. Whose world view is so limited to their personal experience that they have little but contempt for anyone wanting attention or sacrifices or even inconvenience for problems that they don't face.

[Ignoring the exhibition of incompetence on diet except for one line, because it will derail the main track of this piece here. If you are interested, comment away and I'll do a separate piece on this other glorious piece of logic.]

The human body does not require rice and wheat. In fact it does very well without grain.

I challenge Manu Joseph to provide details of one meal that someone under our poverty line could afford that does not involve grains or meat (asked to give up just before this quote). Because dear friend, if rural India could afford a diet of nuts, they wouldn't be desperately running after water tankers, they'd order home delivery like you and me. And if you think people can survive without grains or meat or nuts - wait.... lemme guess. you're talking of a desk jockey lifestyle like yours without much need for energy? Cabbage your way out of that paunch? BTW, vegetable growing needs more water 🙁 Ask me. I have 3 balcony gardens for food and watering in summer is a pain. The grasses grow much easier than these lush beauties (I assume you know grains grow on grasses).

There is more, but I'm bored now. Ending with this masterpiece of propaganda (the art of repeating a falsehood till it starts sounding true)

Let me repeat an assertion this column made earlier while arguing that farmer suicides are primarily a depression story where poverty only plays a role:

“In a country where most people can be termed ‘farmers’, it is not anomalous that most people who kill themselves would be ‘farmers’. In fact, what is anomalous is that a huge majority of farmers who commit suicide are male. If both official and activist statistics are considered, it would appear that women in impoverished farming communities are among the least likely Indians to commit suicide. Activists who ascribe social, economic and political reasons for suicides would never be able to explain why.’ In most nations of the world, including India, the number of men who commit suicide is several times more than the number of women. this pattern is reflected in the gender ratio of ‘farmer suicides’.

Not just activists, any sane person can't get this logic. That depression is the cause of suicide, but not loans or policies and political maliciousness. I mean, why would you be depressed if your months of physical labour resulted in loss? Why would you be depressed if you couldn't repay loans? Why would you want policies to cover your risks? This logic can only come from someone living in a "normal" where hardwork is not necessary to survive, a good way of dealing with loans you don't repay is pulling strings to get them restructured and bailouts are necessary to save jobs, so not like you want any favors.

No matter how many times you repeat it, fact is, most people in India are not farmers. This bogus statistic is based on some expert claim made by another columnist on economics who found his agricultural gene just before a Parliamentary session with a GM food decision coming up and has been copied by every overnight agricultural columnist whose sole agricultural writings come when policy decisions are up for grabs and have never spoken to the family of a farmer who committed suicide or, for that matter, laid feet on agricultural soil for their journalism. Not seen a single person who actually has knowledge of the subject ever buy this nonsense.

The reason for that is that the IDIOT interpreted 54% of Indian population being sustained by the agricultural SECTOR (this includes everything from distributors of pesticides to tractor mechanics and wholesalers of grain) as farmers. Whereas, the fact is that the farmer suicide problem is largely between small and marginalized farmers, whom we are losing rapidly, even as the number of suicides increases in a shrinking population. But this bogus argument remains popular among subsequent idiots who don't verify the bullshit they are fed with when they have propaganda to peddle. You are not the first, and you will not be the last. The activist types don't give a fuck, but bogus data pisses me off, so I suppose I must call this out every time I see it.

Disclosure: Not commenting on the comment about P. Sainath because conflict of interest. I am happy to share that since yesterday, I am on the payroll of the People's Archive of Rural India founded by Sainath, which sadly now will seem like I am defending him in situations like these, when it would just be objecting to rubbish before.

Note: I normally reference and provide data for my posts, but I believe a fact free article at least requires a rebuttal where you have to do the hard work yourself to verify things I say and discover a hundred more horrors I didn't say.

8

If you’ve spent enough time on Twitter, you would’ve found out it’s dominated by the right-wing. BJP IT Cell members were originally on Twitter to promote Modi as a PM candidate. A BJP IT Cell in Nagpur apparently consists of around 6200 members. You didn’t have to read this report to know that the RW machinery on Twitter is organized. You’d have thought their work would be done after making Modi the PM but they’ve still stuck around to defend the BJP Govt’s every move.
The RW of trolls of Twitter are notorious for making death, rape threats, indulging in character assassination and using gendered abuses to silence and intimidate those who hold views different to theirs. The RW machinery consists of normal citizens, bigwigs of RW with huge following, BJP IT Cell members and even right leaning editors, news anchors, journalists and some authors.
The right-wing came under fire recently for spinning the murder of Dr. Pankaj Narang as a case of communal violence. Some popular RW accounts were quick to give it a communal colour.
narangnarangg  narangonarangranganaranhg
The communal angle to a murder case was laid to rest by ADCP Monica Bhardwaj.
This is not the first time the online RW has been caught with their pants down. There have been many other instances where right-wing trolls have indulged in propaganda and the unfortunate part is, they’re assisted by some eminent figures like journalists and editors.
Some examples.
1. Meerut “love jihad” case
 
The case of “gang rape and conversion” ended up in a nikaah between the couple. Her enraged father had filed a false complaint of gang rape and the Sangh Parivar took up the case to encourage the bogey of ‘Love Jihad’. Some prominent people on Twitter had already passed judgement on it and stirred the demonisation of a minority community.
2. Tuktuki Mondal case
 
Tuktuki Mandal was abducted and raped by Muslims, claimed the RW, and they claimed there was a larger sinister plot behind it. Tuktuki Mandal returned home and denied charges of kidnapping and said she didn’t want to return to her parents (as she had a tiff with them).
3. Durga Puja “ban”
After rumour-mongering about how under Mamata, Durgo pujan was banned, it came to light that restriction on Durgo pujan has been present for a long time and even slaughtering goats during Eid isn’t allowed in the same village
4. One sided narrative of RSS workers getting killed
Since quite some time the RW has been tweeting gory pics of RSS workers killed by CPM as a form of whataboutery to any claims of majoritarian violence like the recent killing in Jharkhand.
 kerala
There is a history of political murders in Kerala and not only CPM, but other parties also indulge in it. These killings are politically motivated and do not have a religious angle to it, as some in the RW suggest. Here’s a comprehensive list of murders by RSS members in Kerala (credit: @goonerblues) which goes against the narrative by right-wingers that only RSS workers are the victims in Kerala.
5. Claiming mass-killings in Malda
malda
Muslim fundamentalists wreaked havoc in Malda after ‘insult’ to Prophet but the claims of right wing trolls that scores of Hindus died is false. There was vandalism, police vans were set on fire, a nineteen year-old boy and a thirteen-year old girl were injured. It is debatable that the violence indeed had a communal hue.
6. Manufacturing fake videos of Kanhaiyya and spreading false news of Hafeez Saeed’s endorsement of JNU.
 fakevide fakevid
JNUHafiz hafizmajumder
One of the fake video originated from Shilpi Tewari’s account and was also shared by journalist, Aditya Kaul. Propaganda of Hafeez Saeed endorsing JNU student was spread by Rajnath Singh and the Delhi Police, also by those same right-leaning journalists. Later it turned out the Hafeez Saeed tweet was fake.
7. Dismissing Dadri lynching and the recent Jharkhand lynching of two youths as cases of ‘personal enmity’.
dadrirupa
jharkhand
dadrinarang1
It is a widely accepted fact, as reported by most media outlets, that Dadri killings and hanging of two youths in Jharkhand were communal incidents. Yet the RW machinery wants to spread the canard that they were instances of just ‘enmity’. They aim to dismiss blatant communalism in some cases and imply religious overtones in other cases when there isn’t any to suit their agenda.
In Conclusion
The right-wing leaning journalists, editors and authors shouldn’t act like third-rate Twitter trolls and indulge in spreading lies and communal bile. They should ponder over how their words demonizing minorities contribute to communal tension on the ground. When I confronted such a journalist, she played it down and said condescendingly “I didn’t know I was so powerful”. Well, the likes of her may not be powerful indeed but they do contribute in spreading propaganda on Twitter which then expresses itself in a more crude form on Whatsapp and Facebook. Examples below.
untitledCeewfzXWsAA6TSv
There are many people in India who unfortunately get their dose of “news” and information through platforms like Facebook and Whatsapp. They don’t bother reading papers and finding out the complete stories. There have been many violent incidents due to rumour-mongering on Whatsapp and other SM platforms. Such incidents include: Dadri killing, Trilokpuri riots and Muzzafarnagar riots. Hope these eminent people exercise caution before communalising or otherwise in the long term they might end up having blood on their hands.
[Original post: https://medium.com/@alkalien/poisonous-propaganda-of-the-online-rw-machinery-e934f5614da9#.tofk7zomt ]

Bastar. An abstract name of some strange place where there is Naxalism. And therefore a place to be avoided, to be dreaded and mostly ignored. Not a land of a people who love, have children, earn livelihoods, make houses, sing, dance and celebrate. Not a land of everyday interpersonal conflicts, a tiff with a neighbour, a fight with the spouse. Not a land where children play, tease and bruise their knees. Not a land where people can dream of a future.

Just some dark hinterland, a version of Western World’s Africa right here in India.

I bring Bastar to light. Here.

Bastar is a district in Chhattisgarh. The total area is 4029.98 sq kms. It has a population of 1,411,614 humans (as per Census 2011). 70% of this population are Adivasis belonging to multiple tribes. Chhattisgarh has the 4th largest forest land in India with 44.21% of land cover. Many sections of Bastar are poorly developed with no pucca roads and few medical facilities. Traditionally, Adivasis have depended on forest products for their livelihood. In more recent times, agriculture is a mainstay for many.

There are four main issues that should concern us as regards Bastar: 1) Adivasi rights; 2) Rights of the forests; 3) The future of Bastar; and 4) Who speaks for whom?

Adivasi Rights

Way before Naxalism became active, Adivasis often found themselves on the wrong side of forest officers. These officers had been using their authority to make life difficult for Adivasis to continue with their livelihoods. There was intimidation, rampant corruption and frequent sexual abuse.

After the spread of Naxalism and the subsequent attempts of the State to crush their rise, the many failed strategies like Salwa Judum, the everyday Adivasi has become tainted as either a possible Naxalite or a police sympathizer. S/he is born into this taint, unable to make a choice to be apolitical or non-ideological. Nor even to question State or Naxalism. With state control over media and public opinion outside of Bastar, there is a lurking assumption that every Adivasi is indeed a potential Naxalite. Erased by birth, erased by residence.

What has, therefore, followed is dehumanization of Adivasis by clumping them under a label and reducing them to an object that needs to be controlled. And mansplainers are extremely good in explaining in their daddy-voices on how one can’t trust the locals, how Naxalism has infiltrated the community and that therefore State violence is the only way out.

But Adivasis are citizens of India. They are given the same constitutional rights as all of us. They are protected by the Constitution. And no matter what we opiniate, there cannot be a localised need-based convenient interpretation or occasional reference to law. It basically means they are afforded the same freedoms that we have taken for granted — like right to freedom, right against exploitation, right to constitutional remedies, right to life. They are afforded the same human rights guaranteed by The Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations.

And yet time and again, irrespective of Government, it has been trampled in Bastar. For e.g. when Soni Sori, an Adivasi teacher spoke up in support of her nephew Lingaram Kodopi, a fearless talented journalist, she was arrested.  Cases were filed against her that led to arrest, torture and brutal sexual abuse. If it were not for the activists who followed up and publicized the gross human rights violation, we would have never heard of Soni Sori.  The courts have now cleared her of all the cases. She, in turn, has become a go-to-person who gives courage to women who have been exploited and sexually abused to speak up.

The question before us is why was she tortured? Even if for a moment we assumed she was a Naxalite, does that warrant sexual abuse and torture? Why were the Constitutional rights so openly flouted and yet key officers were not called to question?

Not only Soni Sori, but hundreds of other Adivasis have been wrongfully confined, false cases heaped on them and reports of torture have emerged from more than one place.

More recently, Bela Bhatia wrote about rampant rape of Adivasi women and random detention and assault of men in The Pegdapalli Files. This report is worth your time. For her efforts to expose the human rights violation, Bela Bhatia has been threatened and slandered.

Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group (JagLAG) that worked for the legal rights of Adivasis have been evicted. Journalists who reported on Constitutional violation of Adivasis rights to life, dignity and property have been silenced – either by intimidation or arrest. As the India Today long story “Life in the Red” shows, journalists are reporting under the shadow of fear.

In absence of activists and journalists, we will never hear the other side of the story, the one beyond what the State machinery wants us to know.

Soni Sori campaign
Soni Sori campaign

Rights of the Forests

Chhattisgarh boasts of some of the densest forest cover in India. It is also rich in minerals, rich in natural resources. But that forest cover is quickly being depleted. Between 2011 and 2013, there is reduction of 19 sq kms (1 sq km= 100 football fields) of forest area in Bastar district alone.

Whereas Forests cannot speak for themselves, we the Citizens should ask why the forests are being cut down indiscriminately. One of the major reasons is mining. The area is rich in minerals, coal and other natural resources. A second reason is movement of Adivasis in giving up traditional forest-dependent livelihoods in favour of clearing land for agriculture which is facilitated by the State. The third reason that is cited is to evict Naxalites from these forests.

Forests hold rich biodiversity. Forests protect landscape from erosion, from multiple natural disasters, and provide oxygen to the world. How is it that under our watch the forests are being cut down and there is not more than a whisper of dissent? Except that of locals and human rights groups like Amnesty India.

Who gains by cutting the forests? The locals or big mining corporations and their corrupt nexus with politicians?

Future of Bastar

Like it or not, Naxalism arose as a counter to the atrocities committed by rich landlords. If you read Hello Bastar by Rahul Pandita, you will know several stories of the horrifying crimes committed by the land-owning upper caste groups on landless. A systematic way in which groups of people were kept illiterate, under-developed, in poverty and complete dependence on the land-owning groups.

Like it or not, Naxalism empowered the marginalized, as Bela Bhatia said and I paraphrase, to name the crimes as injustice rather than fate. It is a different thing that Naxalism quickly veered into violence that consumed the very people they were fighting for. It pushed the locals into a state where they could no longer make choices, but remain in that uncertain diplomatic silence on issues.

So if we assume Mission 2016 will succeed and Naxalism will end, the question before is who will benefit from it? Will Adivasis regain rights over the land and rights to dignity? Will they have a voice in their own development and all issues that pertain to their district, to their community? Will they now begin to receive fair and just trials or will they be massacred as possible Naxalites? Will they be empowered to document injustice and successful get constitutionally-guaranteed remedies?

Or will it pave the path for multinational and big mining groups to set up shops, to make rich richer.

This is the question that we should ask. For Bastar deserves (as every land does) a prosperous, healthy and peaceful future. And the constitution guarantees that India is a democracy -- of the people, for the people, by the people. And Bastar is not an abstract name of a land, it is the breath of a people.

Who Speaks for Whom?

Why do activists speak? Is it because they have no other work to do? Are they mere noise makers disturbing the monolithic State narrative of what is happening on ground—the hurrays for the many surrenders of Maoists, the encounters that are supposed to have killed “dreaded” Naxalites, and the legitimacy of Mission 2016. Minus of course the erring journalists, the outspoken researchers, lawyers and activists. The manufacture of a public opinion -- that if you want to end Naxalism, it is given that there will be collaterals of a legitimate war, a.k.a ‘some’ Adivasis will die.

Democracy requires and is maintained by dissent. In a democracy, there can never be a single narrative. There are multiple truths jostling with each other for significance. A process that forces us to not move into easy judgments, but glimpse and empathise with the complex human lives caught in a complex web of power struggles.

And why should it concern those outside Bastar, in other words ‘us’? Don’t we all have own problems in life, our everyday struggles to make ends meet or aspirations to meet a dream? Don’t we have own interpersonal and organization conflicts to deal with?

Why should we? Because as Rahul Pandita had said in a tweet  in context of journalists and so have others, Chhattisgarh is a lab for brutal policies. You succeed in Chhattisgarh, you develop a formula, you set a precedent and then you can implement it in other parts of the country.

Then we must bring down this laboratory and return Bastar to the protection of our Constitution. Now. We have to ensure the protection, freedom of expression and dissent for local activists like Soni Sori and the many outspoken journalists of Bastar so that they, in turn, may stand up for their community.

There are three ways to support people of Bastar:

  1. Search for news on Bastar and please make yourself aware. Share news, talk about it, write about it.
  2. Follow human rights groups like Amnesty India or National Human Rights Commission and support them as needed.
  3. As a citizen, participate in the #OneMillionPostCardCampaign and send an e-card to Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, Dr. Raman Singh asking him to bring CBI and Supreme Court to investigate matters that concern people of Bastar and Soni Sori. Let your voice be heard. http://goo.gl/forms/rvTT6CyHbI

Thank you for taking time to read this post fully. Bastar does need you!

Some information is referenced from Hello Bastar by Rahul Pandita.

Featured image by Pankaj Oudhia

1

This post began life as an attempt to boost the response to the latest wave of targeted violence and/or State-sponsored suppression of civil liberties in Chhattisgarh. Even as I typed away, trying to summarize the ever-mounting brutality in that state, the news breaking from the University of Hyderabad took centre-stage. Every day this past week I have been reflecting on the horrors unfolding in India. Whether Chhattisgarh, or Jharkhand, UP or Hyderabad there is only the sense that the various agencies of the central and state governments are brazen in their attempts in maintaining control of their narrative, either through commission or omission.

The War against Scholarship

The Central Government's Ministry of Human Resources &amp; Development seems to be waging its own war against universities across the country. The earlier controversy at FTII was just the curtain raiser - the Ministry recanted on its decision to stop Non-NET Fellowships last year after massive protests from students across the country. But now it seems to be opening that can of worms all over again - with the current fire directed at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. However, over and beyond the critical question of supporting research is the amount of control being handed to the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

The massive blow-up of sloganeering at a student event at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (even if it was about the controversial hanging of Afzal Guru), now appears to have been kicked off by the ABVP inviting media teams to campus, possibly without permission from the necessary authorities. Even as student leaders from other campus bodies were arrested (and subsequently released on bail), no questions were asked of the ABVP's leadership, with them seeming to get implicit support even from the Central Cabinet. This has emboldened them to become the government's henchmen on various campuses.

Which brings us to the grim episode as yet unfolding at the Hyderabad Central University. This too, started last year, with the shocking apathy of university officials towards Dalit research scholars leading to the suicide of #RohithVemula. The central player in that episode, the Vice-Chancellor Appa Rao Podile, was suspended pending investigation into his abetment of Rohith's suicide. Strangely, he made an unannounced return to campus, in what appears to be a carefully orchestrated move. Again, it is important to note that on his return, Podile had the ABVP's support, as noted by many of the student protestors.

The other thread throughout this narrative is the inordinate, disproportionate amount of violence by the State. If Delhi witnessed scenes of lathicharge, water-cannoning, etc. during the UGC protests, the violence against the #HCU students seems to on a different scale altogether. It is almost shocking to think that this latter bout of violence has, up to the time of writing this, not received even one statement of censure from any state or central government official. Add to this the fact that the police detained and questioned protestors in Chennai (for attempting a hunger strike) and Mumbai as well.

As I write this, Pune's Fergusson College is becoming the latest theatre in ABVP's war for control of campuses India-wide. In this, the ABVP is only following the #BJP, whose gameplan to be India's politics new singular force was signaled by Amit Shah when he first took over as the BJP President. To be fair, there were some ABVP members who found the whole JNU fiasco, particularly the assault by the lawyers at Patiala House, revolting enough to step down.

Highlighting the Real Issues

The issue of student scholarship must be seen in the light of whom it affects most. The most-telling characteristic of the student politics at JNU and HCU is that they empower students from the most marginalized sections of society who would otherwise hardly get such an opportunity.  Their battle must therefore be seen against the backdrop of the various conflicts being fought in the remotest parts of India. As the journalist P Sainath said when speaking at JNU after the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, JNU was now fighting the criminalization of dissent that had long been fought by India's poorest and most disempowered.

In Chhattisgarh, the State has continuously waged war against the tribals in the quest to make mineral resources available to corporates - this war is older than the state of #Chhattisgarh itself. Much of the most critical reportage on the circumstances in the state are already beginning to look dated, although their relevance is as yet intact, with on-ground situation mostly remaining intact, until now. Commentators now see a "Mission 2016", particularly in #Bastar, wherein any and every agency that attempts to speak for the tribals is flushed out of the State - the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group has been forced out, likewise doctors and journalists. Those two bravest of local voices - Soni Sori and her nephew Lingaram Kodopi are being attacked more insidiously now, but continue to speak. As do other local activists and lawyers like Bela Bhatia and Shalini Gera continue to hold their ground, even as they too are targeted by the government.

In Maharashtra, the impact of the irrigation crisis has now been compounded by the crippling drought that affects a large swathe of the state. The famed Section 144 of the Criminal Penal Code, is now imposed in places like Latur prevent riots over water. Latur's MLA, meanwhile, has disappeared leaving even his party whip in the legislature clueless. On the other hand, the state's Attorney-General, Shreehari Aney, has resigned his office after the legislature found controversial his support for separate statehood for Vidarbha and Marathwada (Latur falls in Marathwada, btw). Mr. Aney is now planning to take his protest to Jantar Mantar. It is useful to remember that Devendra Fadnavis sought his mandate in Maharashtra on this very promise.

The list goes on - the state of Orissa now fights the very people it is supposed to represent to get mining rights for POSCO in Niyamgiri, while Jharkhand's cow vigilantism seems to find support at the highest echelons of government. There are famine-related horror stories coming in from Bundelkhand,

Response

The purpose of this article is to not to recount a litany of horrors,  but to highlight the urgent need for responses. The resignation of Mr. Aney, the Orissa government's lawsuit, the ABVP members' resignations can all be seen as alarm bells of one kind or another. The journalist Prem Shankhar Jha also highlighted the worsening situation of India's Muslims vis-a-vis education and unemployment.

The students of various institutions have also shown the way, by becoming a credible opposition to the whip being wielded by government.

It is now essential that empathetic citizens also raise their voices. In Bastar, when journalists found no one to carry their stories, they went online, posting stories on Facebook. Suresh Ediga and Bhavana Nissima are now using social media to leverage public support for the initiatives of Soni Sori, through their  #OneMillionPostCardCampaign for #Bastar. Similarly, most of the news from Hyderabad has come out through Facebook, with the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice -UoH carrying content on its page.

The violence highlighted here runs across caste, class and (religious) community lines, especially in the run-up to elections. There is a visible attempt to communalize violence that isn't communal to begin with. Ultimately, these issues, along with those of land and water, will affect each and every one of us. I ask, beg, request, that readers at least broadcast any and every effort at combating these issues, if not supporting them in every way possible. Good night and good luck!